Limahl at Butlins: 21 years later, loads better

Limahl in concert at Butlins Minehead

I’ve now seen Limahl (former lead singer of Kajagoogoo) live at Butlins twice, 21 years apart. Pleasingly, he was heaps better the second time around.

Partly, that’s down to Butlins itself improving “the product” massively. On my original visit to Skegness in 2002, the 80s pop madness had to compete with smokers and kids everywhere, chicken soup in jugs and a BYO toilet paper approach. I wrote an impressively bitchy account of it for the Australian’s travel section.

These days, the 80s weekends are adults only, smoking indoors is banned and the soup jugs have been abandoned. More importantly, all the performers now work with live bands, rather than singing to backing tracks. Always makes for a better show. Especially when you include an actual saxophonist, the hidden 80s essential.

What also elevated Limahl, who remains annoyingly well-preserved, this time around was the set list. Many acts playing at Butlins face a problem: the crowd probably only knows a couple of their hits. In Limahl’s case, those hits are ‘Too Shy’ (with Kajagoogoo) and ‘Never Ending Story’.

Back in 2002, the rest of his set list was filled with what I’d call obvious 80s banagers: tracks everyone remembers, the ones that end up on cheap supermarket compilations with Rubik’s cubes on the cover. Fine songs all, but over the course of a retro weekend you’re going to hear the originals a million times anyway.

Limahl is still using the familiar gambit of both opening and closing with his best-known song, ‘Too Shy’. But there are a stack more Kajagoogoo and solo tracks in there, including my own favourite, ‘Only For Love’. (This was amongst the first dozen songs I taped off Countdown when our family finally “got a video” back in 1984.)

Equally importantly, the covers were less obvious tracks (‘Tainted Love’ aside). Talk Talk, Joe Jackson and Glenn Frey are not obvious choices. Not gonna lie, during ‘The Heat Is On’ Limahl seemed to be checking the lyrics on his iPad a lot, but I’ll forgive that.

Limahl has to do a Duran Duran cover, since Nick Rhodes from the band co-produced ‘Too Shy’. But rather than diving on ‘Rio’, he slowed things down with a corker version of ‘Save A Prayer’.

The show was very slick, with video backdrops referencing Stranger Things and Nightmare On Elm Street. But it was the track choices and an energetic performance that made the night.

Here’s some questionable evidence for that, my poorly shot Pixel video of the ‘Never Ending Story’ performance.

Limahl setlist Butlins Minehead 9 June 2023

  • Too Shy (Kajagoogoo)
  • Stepping Out (Joe Jackson cover)
  • Ooh To Be Ah (Kajagoogoo)
  • It’s My Life (Talk Talk cover)
  • Only For Love (Limahl)
  • Tainted Love (Soft Cell cover)
  • Hang On Now (Kajagoogoo)
  • The Heat Is On (Glenn Frey cover)
  • Save A Prayer (Duran Duran cover) 
  • Never Ending Story (Limahl)
  • Too Shy (Kajagoogoo)

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